Tours & Day Trips in Timisoara
Timisoara is the 3rd largest city in Romania and one of the most interesting, vibrant and culturally active - it has been chosen the European Capital of Culture in 2021! Being on the Western border of Romania, locals here have always been more rebellious and open-minded. This is why Timisoara is first place where the communist uprising in 1989 started.
Why visit Timisoara? The city is bustling with students, a diverse ethnic scene, restored historic glory and many more! Timisoara airport is very well connected and the city is close to the Danube River, the Carpathians and other interesting sights. Be sure to check our guide on what to do in Timisoara made by locals to get a better idea of what to see & do in the city!
Have a look at all the tours you can do in Timisoara, handpicked by us:
Start from: Timisoara
Start from: Timisoara
Start from: Timisoara
Start from: Timisoara
Start from: Timisoara
Start from: Timisoara
Best Things to Do and Day Trips in Timisoara
Timisoara is the third largest city in Romania and an important cultural and economic hub. The city will be the 2021 European Capital of Culture and for good reason: it boasts an eclectic cultural scene, terraces and cafes that can satisfy any taste, noteworthy landmarks and a wide-variety of entertaining activities. Go on a guided walking tour of Timisoara and you'll quickly see why!
The name originates from the river that passes through it, Bega, which was originally called Little Timis (Micul Timis). The Romanian word Timisoara and the German Temeschwar both stem from the Hungarian “Temesvár” which means castle (vár) on the river Timis (Temes). In fact, the city’s excellent academic institutions have attracted over 60,000 students from 50 different countries. The medical schools in particular appeal to a lot of international students.
But in order to understand how this city reached this unique status in Romania, you need to know a few details about its rich history.
History of Timisoara
Historical evidence shows that this city was inhabited since ancient times but in the 13th century it was destroyed by Tatars and rebuilt during the reign of Charles I of Hungary when it also grew considerably. Stone walls were added to the fortress and he ordered the construction of a palace.
He had become king in 1307 but he was threatened by powerful enemies – mostly Hungarian nobles who didn’t think he should have the throne - so he moved the royal seat and administration from Buda to Temesvár between the years of 1315 and 1323.
This is where he resided during a period of intense conflict in which despite being coronated thrice, he was not acknowledged as king. In 1323, Charles had managed to take full possession of his kingdom and moved the capital to Visegrád, situated in the center.
The years he spent here allowed the town to expand and flourish and by the middle of the 14th century, Timisoara held an important strategic role in the struggle between Western Christianity and the Muslim Ottoman Turks. This city was attacked by Ottomans in 1462, 1476, 1491 and in 1522 it was finally conquered by Kara Ahmed Pasha with an army of 16,000. It then became a capital city in the region and stayed under Ottoman rule for almost 160 years. During this time, Timisoara was controlled by the sultan and had a special status similar to Budapest and Belgrade.
In 1716 it was conquered again by Prince Eugene of Savoy and came under Habsburg rule. Claudius Florimund Mercy was appointed governor and since the siege resulted in the city being burned down, it was rebuilt under his supervision. In 1723 a new stone fortress was erected and Timisoara continued to flourish. The inhabitants became more diverse as German, Italian and Spanish settlers were brought in. By 1781, Timisoara which was referred to Temeschburg became one of the most significant cities under the Habsburg Monarchy and was deemed a royal free city.
During the Austro-Turkish war of 1787-1791, it was captured in 1788 and looted in 1789.
As you may recall, the Revolutions of 1848 meant a threat to the Habsburg Empire which ruled over Austrians, Hungarians, Romanians, Slovenes, Czechs, Poles, Slovaks, Croats, Serbs, Ukranians and Italians. The Hungarian revolution was actually the longest in Europe and since Timisoara was under Habsburg rule it resulted in an unsuccessful siege of the city which lasted 114 days. Timisoara was even shortly the capital of the Serbian Vojvodina (autonomous Serbian province) as it was captured by Serbian Troops.
After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, Timisoara became capital of Temes County and a period of modernization followed which included: introduction of telegraphy (1853), gas street lighting and a train line to Szeged (1857), horse drawn trams (1867), electric street lights (first city in Europe, 1884) and electric trams (1899).
After World War I, Timisoara was given to the Kingdom of Romania through the Treaty of Trianon (4th of June 1920). During World War II, the city was damaged by bombing raids from both the Allies and the Axis powers since Romania fought on both sides at different stages of the war. The country lost much of the territory gained after WWI.
After World War II, Romania was occupied by the Soviet Union, King Michael was forced to abdicate and the People's Republic of Romania was proclaimed. Timisoara went through a period of Sovietization and Systematization, became highly industrialized and the population tripled.
In December of 1989 the Romanian Anticommunist Revolution started in Timisoara initially as a reaction to the government trying to evict Hungarian pastor László Tőkés who had spoken against the regime’s Systematization policy earlier that year. Parishioners gathered around his house to prevent the eviction but this attracted passers-by who were already disgruntled with the austerity measures imposed by Ceausescu and had heard of similar events in the neighboring countries.
The attempt at crushing the revolt by involving the army only made it gain strength and after three days of bloodshed, Timisoara became the first city to free itself from the Communist regime.
During this time, Ceausescu was in Iran and he returned on the 20th of December. On the 21st, he decided to give a speech in Bucharest, criticising the riots in Timisoara. This proved to be a huge mistake because the crowd gathered to hear his speech also started a protest and now the Revolution had spread to the capital. On a guided walking tour of Timisoara a guide can show you where these events happened and the few remaining bullet holes in buildings.
Architecture of Timisoara
Timisoara’s architecture serves as a reminder of important historical events that have left their mark on the city. One of the most impressive buildings is the Orthodox Cathedral which is part of the National Register of Historic Monuments and was built between 1936 and 1941 on an area of 1,542 square meters (16,600 square feet). It has 11 towers and reaches a height of 90 meters. The cupola is built in Moldavian Style which mixes Renaissance, Byzantine and Ottoman elements. The mosaic floors are inspired by rugs from the Banat region and the interior and exterior paintings were done by Anastase Demian over a stretch of many years since this coincided with WWII.
In Piata Unirii (Unirii Square) you’ll find St. George's Cathedral, built between 1736 and 1774. It was originally designed by Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach from Vienna and is the most valuable example of Baroque architecture in Timisoara. The interiors incorporate Rococo elements and were created by Viennese artists. Because of the cathedral’s great acoustic, numerous organ concerts are held here.
Timisoara has four theatres: "Mihai Eminescu" National Theatre, German State Theatre, Csiky Gergely Hungarian State Theatre and Merlin Puppet Theatre. All of them are housed in beautiful, impressive buildings worth visiting!
Some of the city’s museums are also located in landmark buildings. The Art Museum is in the Baroque Palace, the Banat Museum in the Huniade Castle, the Palace of the Serbian Episcopacy houses a museum of religious artifacts on the first floor and you’ll find plenty of other art galleries if you take a day trip with a local guide.
Here are some Timisoara attractions you shouldn’t leave without visiting:
● Unirii Square – This is where you’ll find the Catholic Cathedral (St. George's Cathedral), the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Baroque Palace
● Piata Victoriei (Victory Square) – this is where Timisoara was proclaimed the first free city on the 20th of December 1989. It’s very close to Unirii Square and you’ll be able to see three of the four theaters, the Romanian National Opera which shares the same building with the "Mihai Eminescu" National Theatre and lots of other art galleries and interesting boutiques.
Things to Do in Timisoara
● Visit the Craft Beer Festival – This festival takes place in June and it celebrates the growing artisanal beer industry in the region, so if you’re interested in exploring some unique beer flavors (Hop Hooligans, Zăganu, Sikaru, Nemțeana, Berărescu etc.), trying some local street food and listening to live music, you might want to stop by.
● Timisoara Jazz Festival – There are two other jazz festivals throughout the year, each lasting several days and you can listen to a mix of bands from all over the world at different venues
● Plai Festival – Plai means land and this festival is meant to promote civic action and local NGOs. If you decide to attend, you’ll get to listen to live music, try local food, participate in a wide array of workshops and really experience the spirit of the city, particularly how urban culture mixes with folklore
● Boat trip on Bega river – This 10 km boat ride is actually part of the public transportation system and the price of the ticket reflects it. It’s a great way to relax and take in the scenery after a few hours of roaming through the city and visiting architectural landmarks.
Day trips and attractions around Timisoara
Timisoara isn’t lacking in places to see and things to do but it would be a shame to not take the time and explore some of the tourist attractions located nearby. You can book day trips from Timisoara with local guides and visit some of them.
- Corvin Castle
Corvin Castle is about 200km (125 miles) away from Timisoara depending on which route you take. You might have seen parts of it in the horror movie “The Nun” where it’s presented as the Carta Monastery. The Carta Monastery is a real place in Romania, it’s just not where the movie was filmed.
Another departure from reality is that Corvin Castle is designed to look more like a fairy tale castle with multicolored roofs, a myriad of windows and balconies, strong walls, tall towers and an inner courtyard.
This imposing Gothic Castle is, in fact, among the largest in Europe and was built over an older fortification in 1446 under the orders of John Hunyadi (Iancu de Hunedoara). It was one of his most important properties and his intentions were to create an opulent home where he could hold ceremonies, formal receptions and feasts.
In the 17th century, further changes were made for both military and aesthetic purposes. In 1854, lightning caused a fire which burned most of the parts of the structure made from wood (roof, stairs, wooden beams, doors). This was followed by 10 years of neglect, so the current appearance of the castle is the result of a 40-year restoration process.
- the UNESCO Ruins of Dacian Fortresses
There are six Dacian fortresses in the Orastie Mountains which were built in the 1st century B.C to protect the capital Sarmizegetusa, against the threat of Roman conquest. They make use of the natural landscape, forming an intricate defense system. These fortresses played a critical role in the Roman-Dacian wars.
If you’re interested in history, you can take a day trip from Timisoara and visit the remains of these remarkable structures. They showcase ancient architectural techniques and military innovation.
- Sarmizegetusa Regia
Sarmizegetusa Regia was the capital of the Dacian Kingdom and you might confuse it with Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa which isn’t far (40km). Your local guide will probably take you to both places. What happened was that the Romans destroyed the original Sarmizegetusa and added the name to a new city which was to become the capital of the Roman province of Dacia. As with the other Dacian fortresses, you can visit the ruins.
The archeological site is located in the village Grădiștea Muncelului, at a height of 1,200 meters for strategic reasons as this gave it visibility over the surrounding regions in case of an attack.
It’s made out of three main areas: the citadel, a zone for temples and sanctuaries and the civilian settlements situated below the citadel on artificial terraces.
- Hiking trips from Timisoara
Sarmizegetusa Regia is really close to the Gradistea Muncelului-Cioclovina Nature Park, a protected area with stunning scenery and five hiking trails for tourists. One of the most beautiful and also the most popular is the trail from Sarmizegetusa Regia to the Godeanu Peak. The isolation and wilderness of the landscape will make you feel like you’re in a sort of wonderland.
Another popular hiking day trip from Timisoara is to Nera-Beusnita Natural Park where the Beusnita Waterfalls can be admired and also the famous Ochiul Beiului Lake (Devil's Eye) with is interesting crystal-clear turquoise water.
Bigar Waterfall is a famous attraction around Timisoara and a must see on a day trip!
Finally, the statue of King Decebal on the Danube is so popular it needs no introduction! After seeing the statue tourists can go on a hike in the nearby Domogled-Cernei Natural Park!